Using advanced single-cell sequencing technologies, a team of researchers have generated the first ever single cell atlas of human teeth.
Human teeth are important in speech and for chewing our food. They are composed of a unique combination of both hard and soft tissues. Enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body and covers the crown of the tooth. This is then supported by a second less mineralised tissue – the dentin. The central portion of the tooth is occupied by the dental pulp. The tooth is anchored to the bone via the periodontium. Teeth develop from interactions between cells of the oral epithelium and the cranial neural crest-derived mesenchyme.
Over the past 30 years, researchers have been investigating how the cross talk between stem cells and their environment drive regenerative processes. The aim is to identify new ways to apply insights into everyday practice. For example, one recent study showed that dental epithelial stem cells in mouse incisors are important upon tooth injury and contribute to enamel regeneration. However, despite the biomedical importance of teeth, the cellular composition of two main tissues – the dental pulp and periodontium – has yet to be explored in detail.
In this study, published in iScience, researchers mapped the transcriptional landscape of various cell populations of human teeth at single-cell resolution. They also analysed, in deeper detail, stem cell populations within teeth and their respective microenvironments.
The study revealed greater cellular heterogeneity in the dental pulp and the periodontium. Surprisingly, the team also found that the molecular signatures of the stem cells populations were very similar. However, their respective microenvironments strongly diverged. These findings suggest that their distinctive microenvironments maybe the potential source of the major functional differences of stem cells located in the different tooth compartments.
This study emphasises the complexity of dental tissues. These findings open doors to more appropriate dental therapeutic approaches. It also holds potential for successful regeneration of damaged parts of teeth and more precise diagnostic tools for dental pathologies.
Image credit: By starline – freepik